What is that swooshing sound you hear throughout the month of May? It's graduation mortarboards flying through the air, of course! All across the Bay Area that sound -- accompanied by the fluttering of gowns -- bears witness to the achievements made by students as they process across the stage to receive their diplomas.

At our local community colleges -- Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College -- hundreds of graduates with diplomasin hand will transfer to some of the best universities in the country.

Graduating from the College of Alameda with a mathematics degree is Selma Elsiddig Adam. She grew up in Sudan where going to college was only a dream for a girl interested in computer engineering. Coming to the United States for her education wasn't easy for Selma, but she was determined to get a college education.

A multi-scholarship winner, Selma has been accepted by Cal, UC Irvine, UC Davis, both San Francisco and San Jose state universities and CSU East Bay. At whichever university she chooses, Selma will pursue a degree in software engineering.

"I am proud that I came this far in achieving my goals," Selma says. We think you're going to go a lot further.

At Merritt College, several students from the Puente Program are graduating. Mariela Salcedowill be transferring to UC Davis as a pre-med student. Mariela was pursuing a nursing degree until instructors urged her to consider a career as a doctor. Also part of Puente, Marisela Ochoa will be transferring to UC Berkeley and Paul Martinez was accepted to UCLA. The mission of Puente is to increase the number of underrepresented students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities. It's a great program with great students.


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Over at Laney, Dennis Yu, a co-founder of the Peralta Engineering Medicine and Science Club, is working on an internship at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab this summer and will start mechanical engineering studies at UC Berkeley in the fall. Dominique Yancey-Piens, also an intern at Lawrence Berkeley, just got accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This makes him about as rare as a unicorn considering that MIT accepts very few transfer students and almost none from community colleges. Job well done!

Mirko Ranieri, a 22-year-old international student whose second language is English, is the Berkeley City College President's Award winner for 2014. Mirko, who will graduate with a business administration degree, has a unique story: While preparing for a professional soccer career in Italy, he was recruited at age 16 into the English Premier League. Each night after a full day of soccer practice, Mirko would study and was able to eventually earn his high school diploma. Then an accident halted his soccer career forever.

"The dream that took me out of my Italian home was shattered," he recalled. "After extensive research, I learned that the Peralta Colleges, surrounded by the Bay Area's spirit of innovation, provided exactly what I was looking for."

Even though he had no money for an education, he budgeted "every penny" and enrolled at Berkeley City College. While there, he founded the Business and Finance Club and was elected president of Phi Theta Kappa.

Accepted by UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, Mirko has also been admitted by Harvard and is waiting to hear from Stanford and Columbia! That's a tough choice, Mirko, but we know you'll choose wisely.

These are just a few of the incredible students that make up the Class of 2014 at the Peralta Colleges. To see more profiles of outstanding grads, visit www.peralta.edu.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.eduand follow him at Twitter at @JeffHeyman.